How long have you been using FileMaker Pro, and how did you get started with it?
Working as a business consultant for MMSolutions (established in 1979), I first discovered the power of FileMaker at a lunch hour demonstration held at Apple Computer headquarters in Cupertino California. I started experimenting with it immediately after returning to my office and in one of my early calls to Tech Support I asked "How do I identify a variable?" and "Where's the LET function?"
I first used FileMaker to design database systems that scheduled golf vacation packages to Hawaii and for inter-island travel with Aloha Airlines. FileMaker database systems soon became very important in managing other rather large events: the 1989 San Francisco Giants World Series Golf Tournament, the Hall-of-Fame Golf Tournament, Doug Sanders Seniors PGA Golf Classic, the NFL Banquet, the San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles (soon to be "Oakland" again) Raiders Softball game, Jazzercise to Beat Breast Cancer, and many more.
About the latter event: After several years of raising money and gathering statistics for the Jazzercise to Beat Breast Cancer event, I analyzed the statistics with the help of FileMaker and the results were quantified. The event committee was given the instruction to make decisions based on the results of the analysis and each was given a copy of the report. Steve Young (then the Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers) and Barbara Boxer (then Congresswoman) were invited as guests of honor. As testament to the committee's "statistics based faith" and commitment to its success, The Susan B. Komen Foundation was awarded a total of $100,000 raised from this single day event.
I treasure the memorabilia from those events: a baseball signed by the 1962 World Champion San Francisco Giants invited to play in the 1989 World Series Golf Tournament, a football helmet signed by football Hall-of-Fame players, an autographed picture of Don Larson (only player to pitch a perfect game in a World Series) an autographed photo of Hall-of-Fame bound Orlando Cepeda with former teammate Jose Cardinal in a golf cart.
Tell us about the Northern California Golf Association and your role as Assistant Director of IT there...
The Northern California Golf Association (NCGA) is a 105 year-old company and is one of the largest golf associations in the country. It currently serves almost 180,000 members, serves over 400 regular golf clubs/courses and 850 associate clubs, owns two golf courses (Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach and Poppy Ridge in Livermore), publishes a quarterly magazine and plays host to the AT&T Celebrity Pro/Am.
Its Education department conducts "Rules of Golf" training seminars and certification program; the Turfgrass Services department educates maintenance supervisors on turf/grass issues and its Foundation provides golf opportunities to young people. The Rules and Competitions department conducts more than 40 championships each year, the most extensive amateur tournament calendar in the nation, including the California Golf Association (State) Championships in conjunction with the Southern California Golf Association. More than 60,000 members participate annually, starting with club and sectional qualifying through the championships proper. Golf is popular, in large part, because of its unique and equitable system of handicapping. Accurate holes measurement and course ratings ensure the issuance of fair "Handicap Indexes." This function is administered by the Course Rating and Handicapping department.
The IT department keeps the computer systems and networks running, deploys new technologies/services and provides computer systems and peripherals to the more than 400 member golf courses. The Accounting department assumes financial accountability for all of the above including the restaurants and Pro Shops.
Since 2002, I've worked for the NCGA as Assistant Director for the IT Department. The 18th green at Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach California is my view and when it comes time for the AT&T Celebrity Pro/Am Golf Tournament to be played I can watch sports celebrities putting on the green from this vantage point: Tom Brady (QB New England Patriots), Emmitt Smith, Ozzie Smith, Lynn Swann, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Oscar de la Hoya and "Coach" Craig T. Nelson (actor). If I don't have the best job in the world it is, at least, a slice of heaven.
What role does FileMaker Pro play at the Northern California Golf Association?
FileMaker Pro plays an important role in this organization from tracking inventory to tracking Club Officers to exposing "sandbaggers." The latter may be the only tool of its kind in all of sports. It was initially conceived in our Course Rating Department and because of the calculation complexities and agonizing response time it was handed off to the IT department.
To accomplish our programming goals I sometimes look to other FileMaker consultants to lend their expertise: Moe Rosenhek from Canada, Beverly Voth from Kentucky or Joan Lowden from California. My added value "consultant" is Neveen Mourad, Volume Licensing Sales FileMaker Inc. Neveen's many successful interventions on my behalf, her helpfulness and sales support expertise have allowed me to use FileMaker products successfully at NCGA. Neveen has been my most valuable resource at FileMaker Inc.
You were a guest speaker at one of the FileMaker Developer Conferences. Can you tell us about that experience?
In 2004, I participated as a guest speaker on behalf of a vendor at the FileMaker Developer Conference at a lunch time presentation for the topic "Online Registration." At that time the NCGA had developed an online tournament registration system in conjunction with the vendor. Players would signup online for golf tournaments then XML data streams were sent to NCGA via an FTP site and loaded into FileMaker databases daily throughout the tournament season.
What do you like best about your job at the NCGA?
The fringe benefits: The Concourse d'Elegance Classic Car Show is a yearly event held in Pebble Beach and each year I take a quick peek then call my boss and describe the car that I'm looking at and its price. A few of weeks ago a colleague and I attended a Dell/Intel file server presentation at AT&T Park in San Francisco (home of the San Francisco Giants) we had lunch on the concourse overlooking the baseball field then spent the rest of the afternoon driving race cars in the vast parking lot attended by the instructors of the Skip Barber Racing School.
Oh you mean with FileMaker! Well as I've already mentioned, I have access to every tool and software that I need to do my job but aside from that, I enjoy the freedom and time to learn and implement new features that FileMaker has included in its latest version. As a consultant, I waited for the client to pay for me to learn a particular feature required to solve a problem.
What do you like least?
Like most consultants, we are prepared to work long and hard when we are on a creative high and we take care of other duties when we are on a low. It is common for me to get interrupted many times during my high creative period and not accomplish what I had intended. Wearing the "IT moniker" means that when someone needs help we must be available. It also means server maintenance, backup, upgrades, meetings etc. This translates to longer project development times. I've managed a pain-staking adjustment.
What education or type of training did you receive that prepared you for database design?
I was trained as an engineer with required classes in calculus, physics, chemistry, programming, thermodynamics, etc. and later attended the School of Business after military service. My first engineering job was at Lockheed Missiles and Space and among other projects I designed hardware user interfaces (making dissimilar equipment appear homogeneous.) I later worked on similar projects at Ford Aerospace using CAD as the design tool. My skill set included Computer Aided Design (CAD) experience, calculation skills, programming skills, knowledge of business and knowledge of computer technology before "hooking up" with FileMaker. Over several years I adopted a database design philosophy which guided me through such things as rapid development, gender friendly interfaces, design consistency, rapid database response, security and reliability.
College classes through "Continuing Education" reinforced my skill set: Robotics, HTML, XML, Novell Networks and programming.
Before the advent of FileMaker Certification training the FileMaker User Group was the primary way of disseminating information gathered by experienced developers. In 2001, a particular work experience became my FileMaker Boot Camp. This experience vaulted me to "the next level" of database design status. A group of FileMaker developers working in conjunction with a legacy systems specialist, a technical writer, a FileMaker administrator and a network systems specialist worked together to design a database system of gigantic proportion. We helped, challenged and learned from each other to new heights in database development. We were rigorous about: checking in projects by midnight so that another developer could check it out in the morning, regular backups, zero tolerance for corruption, ultra fast database response, incorporating traditional database design theory and concepts, challenging FileMaker software to the point of failure or new discovery and finally effective documentation. We were all originally hand picked for this team and the following people must be considered among the best of FileMaker developers: Mari Jo Young, Mike Tinder, Moe Rosenhek, Melissa Kurtz and Andrew Baldock. Phil Tortessi passed away last year but remains forever linked with this exclusive group of database designers.
How do you keep up with the changes to FileMaker Pro?
These days, I stay current by attending FileMaker Developer Conferences regularly and by knowledge imparted by my savvy IT colleagues at the NCGA -- Wayne Inovejas and Kelly Talbert. I benefit from their research and tests so that I am able to use all the FileMaker products in the way they are intended. The NCGA provides me with an office in newly renovated facilities, with state-of-the-art tools and a lab in which to experiment. Next year's budget includes a dual core MacOS computer for testing in a Microsoft network environment. Did I already mention this is a slice of Heaven?
I understand that you also manage an art gallery. What can you tell us about that?
My time away from NCGA is occupied as Managing Director of MMPublishing, and as a member of the management team (that includes MMPublishing's Director of Operations, Janet Martinez together with Dr. Jennifer Colby) for the Galeria Tonantzin in San Juan Bautista, the city of history.
The art gallery features women's contemporary art promoting local artists and authors in a multimedia venue. Dr. Colby is the current National President, Women's Caucus for Art a national nonprofit organization. As of this writing the current exhibit at the gallery is titled "Katrina Diaries" an exhibit of members of the Women's Caucus for Art of Louisiana. New Orleans artists open two exhibits of their catastrophic art on the West Coast in the first week of September 2006. Founded in 1992 by Dr. Colby, Galeria Tonantzin has exhibited women's contemporary art for the last 12 years. It is the only art gallery on the California coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles devoted to women's art.
Extending my reach as a publisher, I have written several columns including Dining out with Ed and Brew 'n Chow for local newspapers. Yes, I write restaurant reviews. With this as evidence to my knowledge about food, wine, and good service, I find myself responsible for hosting and providing the food and wines for the art gallery's monthly artist receptions and yearly wine tasting event.
As an aside: Inside sources at the American Culinary Federation and Culinary Institute of America keep me informed of promising chefs at all echelons (soo, master, certified master, etc.). Food is also an art form.
Can you tell us more about MMPublishing?
In the mid 1990s MMSolutions "Business Consultant" spawned the publishing company MMPublishing. Initially publishing technical materials and articles, it became free to publish autobiographical books and MultiMedia publications using the process of EPublishing. MMSolutions continues to pursue projects with a very strong "Creative Team" that creates and produces documentaries, commercials for television, Latino market strategies, desktop publishing, event planning, grant writing, non-profit status advice and strategies.
MMPublishing's mission is "To preserve each individual's legacy by publishing personal stories, professional articles, technical articles, editorials, collections, catalogs and stories for children."
We have expanded the scope of EPublishing to include full MultiMedia for selected published pieces which may include animated graphics, pictures, video or audio. Additionally, each may be searchable and interactive.
EPublishing is said to merely describe a quality, characteristic, and feature of the relevant services, namely, that publications are in electronic format this includes the conversion of print publications to electronic format.
Our definition of EPublishing is not the same as "electronic publishing." Our EPublishing is about a unique design process we use in our original publications. We develop and provide unique multimedia effects which interface, images and sound in harmony with the text. To our knowledge, no other publisher is utilizing these processes as I have described.
Further, a stream of consciousness exists in every story and it is established by the author. MMPublishing is unique in that the reader is able to redirect the stream of consciousness for any given story offering a new experience each time the story is read. No other publisher, to our knowledge, has knowingly made this claim.
You can visit our website (located at http://www.mmpublishing.com) for more information and to read wonderful and inspiring autobiographies. Publications available for sale include: Winston Churchill's Bodyguard, the Teheran Conference of 1943 by Danny Mander; Passing on the Spirit, Celebrating Eccentric Mentors by Bill Cane, PhD; Art is Elementary by Sara Anderson.
What are your favorite things to do that don't involve work?
Design, Design and Design; I enjoy designing furniture, room design, garden/landscape and tool design. My home reflects the joy of my own designs.
Cooking is a favorite thing; each cooking effort is an attempt to create a "feast of harmonious flavors." The feast begins with single aroma or a pleasing combination of aromas as the first course, a "no calorie" appetizer. It sets the mood with a pleasing expectation for the next course. My main complaint with restaurants is that aromas do not migrate from the kitchen into the dining area.
Related to cooking, I am interested in collecting unique recipes formulated by men that I classify as "He-Man" recipes. The cookbook that I would like to publish is "Real Men Can Cook." The cookbook would be filled with recipes like Steak-in-a-bag, grilled venison sausage pizza and Russian Egg with instructions on serving their creations with style. Of course, I look for the cookbook itself to be innovative because "He-Men" don't sit down to read cookbooks! A design dilemma occurred when one of MMPublishing's female editors asked, "Would I be able to cook a meal from a "He-Man" recipe for a man-friend?"
We've already discussed the role of FileMaker at the NCGA. What role does FileMaker Pro play in the other businesses and organizations that you're involved?
I had high hopes for FileMaker 7 as I tried to use it as a publishing tool. I used the 24U SimpleSound plugin and it was very helpful, but overall FileMaker was not ready for use either as a publishing tool or to deliver multimedia works. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed because I wanted to enter the design contest held at the Developer Conference. I am thankful to 24U Software for providing me with the advanced beta copy used for that purpose.
I find uses for FileMaker in every business and organization in which I am involved. I'm often given a list of contacts created with a text editor and with no practical use. Some time ago I created a parsing tool that extracts the text data and places it into appropriate fields in a database making the data useful again. I use FileMaker to create diagrams and flow charts, to store restaurant reviews, to store minutes of meetings, to create and store contracts, as a sketch pad for all of my design projects.
What do you like best about FileMaker?
Over the years there have been alternative database managers to FileMaker, but because FileMaker was improved in timely increments, I was never forced to take an alternative. Today, FileMaker has no peer and what I like best about FileMaker is that it still continues to improve; although innovation has appeared "under the hood", since FMP 8, I see innovation appearing on the surface. As FileMaker has improved the product line our basic "Old School" tools have remained and in this way developers add to their bag-of-tricks as they continue to make a living. The alternative would be a tragedy.
What drives you crazy about the product?
There is a lack of technical support for the advanced and expert developer. We have to figure it out ourselves or wait for the Developer Conference when there is access to product development professionals.
Do you see FileMaker playing a bigger role in the organizations that you are involved with in the future?
FileMaker cannot play a bigger role in my future because it is not advertised on television or any other mainstream media. I need FileMaker Inc. to cultivate an emotional tie to the product and the brand with the larger audience. "Powered by FileMaker" means little without a powerful ad campaign to describe why it is important. The trickle down effect is that when I talk FileMaker, people will listen.
Additionally, there is no mechanism in place to show FileMaker management how I intend to use FileMaker and what features I need. In years past I could find out if a feature was eminent or scheduled in a future revision. I did find a meeting with the FileMaker Mobile engineers at the 2005 developer conference very useful and informative. My comments appear to have been taken seriously because the issues raised have been resolved. At NCGA we install FileMaker Mobile in barcode scanning devices in conjunction with our inventory control program for receiving, installation and repair.
Any thoughts on the latest release of FileMaker (FileMaker 8.5)?
I am thrilled with features that allow me to do the following:
- Display the ".htm" help files, generated by the intranet server, directly in the database.
- Experiment with screen scraping of information displayed from the Exchange Server.
- Name an object to provide smooth navigation transitions.
- Employ MacOS generated graphics migrated to 8.5 in a WinXP environment (a significant behavior change from version 8).
What features would you like to see in FileMaker in the future?
Actually, I envision other versions of FileMaker Pro in addition to the single all purpose version that satisfy specific needs. Some of us need a version that "elegantly" embeds files then plays or displays the following: audio files, QuickTime movies, PDF, html and Word documents. Anytime that the curser is not in use it fades away until awakened. Although limited in capacity it would satisfy a very specific purpose that many developers have been requesting. I will use it as a publishing tool. Runtime and kiosk modes are required.
What's your favorite tool, plugin, or technique for developing FileMaker databases?
In 2001, there was third party software for MacOS that would copy-and-paste text from one FMP script to another. Today FileMaker has improved on that software and allows copy-and-paste from and within tables, fields and scripts. This is a tremendous time saver.
One of my favorite tools is Chaparral's EZ XSLT; I do not promote the creation of correspondence in a database. Instead, users, with the press a button, get a properly formatted document in Microsoft Word for the current found set. The user creates the original and all subsequently modified documents using Microsoft Word, "EZ."
My newest favorite tool is FMWebschool's FXForge it creates a website that communicates with a FileMaker database.
Developer experience dictates the parameters of a full featured database. Clients cannot define those parameters but do define those particular to their business for which they are willing to pay. As a developer matures (s)he is able to provide more features to his/her clients because his/her "feature library" has grown. My most important tool is my "feature library."
What advice do you have for someone that is just getting started with FileMaker?
The most significant piece of advice that I can offer is to obtain a mentor. I spoke to several young people recently graduated from college, at a Developer Conference, with degrees in Computer Science who were working "apprenticing" at a FileMaker Development company; they appeared satisfied to have the opportunity to "learn and earn" under a senior developer. A mentor will help avoid pitfalls, pass on the elements of the craft and augment the beginners skill set.
Are you an FSA member? If so, how has becoming a member affected your business?
I was an FSA member through MMSolutions in the early days of FSA. I attended the first Developer Conference in Santa Clara, California. I am currently an FSA member through the NCGA. The FSA affects my development cycle in the following way: In 2006 the tournament season for NCGA began January 6 and runs through December 31. We test new database systems between October and December and deploy them in January. The FSA helps me plan systems for the ensuing year by providing me with product information not yet released to the public, that helps me foresee how to satisfy my company's needs. If I anticipate a solution with specific features or parameters incorrectly I can easily lose an entire development cycle. I see the worth of the FSA more than ever, but I also expect more.
What technology has most changed your life?
Many FileMaker employees have emerged as Evangelists for FileMaker technology and could very well be the subject of a future FileMaker Addict profile: Delfina Daves, Phil Smith, Alexi Folger, Rick Colcock, Andrew LeCates, Mike Alvarado and Keith Robinson. I would like to thank them for their contribution in enhancing my career and for their energetic promotion of the FileMaker product line. Also, thanks to the unsung heroes that share their expertise in forums across the globe in the form of User Groups. I will be attending a user group meeting (Digfm.org) next week because new ideas and techniques are constantly emerging.
To learn more about the businesses and organiztions that Ed is involved with, please visit their Web site:
Wow! It has been quite some time since our last FileMaker Addict interview! (Since April, to be exact.) I thought I'd take a minute to let everyone know what has been going on...
In the spring, I took a full-time job doing SQL Server development with a firm up in Northern Virginia. It was challening work, and it most definitely involved a lot of database development (my passion). But the project just wasn't for me.
A lot has happened since then -- I left that job, I took my family on a road trip across the country (the trials and tribulations of which can be found here: http://ontheroad.typepad.com/on_the_road/), took a new job (as a FileMaker developer - yeah!) with a marketing firm located in Richmond, VA, and have just relocated there.
FileMaker Addict has been "on ice" during that time. But now that I am settled, my goal is to bring FileMaker Addict back once and for all, with regular monthly interviews. So please check back again soon!